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Court rules undocumented immigrant can practice law

Immigration is a popular topic, especially among those who live in Florida and states that share a common border with Mexico. The outcome of a recent case has sparked an animated discussion among those who stand on both sides of the immigration issue. On Jan.2, the Supreme Court of California ruled that it was legal for an immigrant lacking sufficient documentation to be admitted to the state bar as well as to practice law in the state.

The case involved a 36-year-old man who was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when he was less than 2 years old. In 1986, he and his parents returned to Mexico and then the family came back to California in 1994. The family lacked documentation, although his father had gotten permanent resident status. In 1995, federal immigration officials accepted an immigration application his father had filed on his behalf. The visa has yet to be granted, even though he has resided in California since 1994. The court blamed the lengthy delay on a backlog of those of Mexican origin seeking immigrant status.

The man received his law degree from a California law school in 2009 and passed the bar exam in 2009. Since that time, he had been fighting to be admitted to the state bar. Critics argue that his being admitted to the bar without proper immigration status would be a conflict of interest.

This case could set a precedent, since there are similar cases already occurring in Florida and New York. Proponents of the ruling believe that it is a positive step for those who have the proper paperwork in place, but cannot gain legal status because of a broken system. The new ruling may aid immigration attorneys in helping others seeking to obtain licenses to work in the United States.

Source: CNN, "No green card? No problem -- undocumented immigrant can practice law, court says", Catherine E. Shoichet and Tom Watkins, January 03, 2014

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